Why I feel Nanny Agencies should be regulated

When I set about starting my Nanny Agency over 2 years ago now, I searched for advice on where I should register, only to discover I didn’t have to. I was quite shocked. I've been in the childcare industry for over 30 years, starting off as a Nanny (and using local agencies) to then working in nursery schools and day nurseries once I had my own children. My last placement was as a Deputy Manager of a private day nursery where regulations, legislation, qualifications, training, and the endless paperwork was non-negotiable. I was taken aback that Nanny Agencies can operate without being regulated.

Through tireless research I discovered that I would be required to register with the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office), nobody tells you this, I stumbled upon it by accident. So how many Nanny Agencies out there aren’t ICO registered?

I found Morton Michel at the childcare expo and got my Agency insured. Again, how many Nanny Agencies aren’t adequately insured and do parents consider this when they register with them, I wonder?

I then looked at my proposed paperwork, drafted policies and procedures, and thought about how they’d stand legally. I’m not a lawyer and needed to be satisfied that I was operating lawfully, and so I sought advice from Parental Choice who worked with me to create processes reaching the high standard of practice I was aiming for. I now have great Terms and Conditions for both Nannies and families as well as separate ones for the Creche services I provide.

Once set up, I needed to reach out to Nannies. They came along quite quickly, some were qualified, some were not, and with varied levels of experience. It was soon apparent that as there was no consistency across Nanny Agencies regarding their requirements, it was up to me to decide upon my own terms and conditions. These are subject to alteration to keep up with changes to legislation and methods of best practice. For example:

  • I took the decision that I would follow OFSTEDs guidelines, however, I now insist that Nannies have a DBS on the ‘update system’ (originally, I accepted less than 1 year but this year I’ve changed it so that I can check the DBS upon registration and then again when I forward the Nanny for positions).

  • 12 hour Paediatric First Aid (again, some Nannies have been registered with other Nanny Agencies with just 6 hour first aid and, amazingly, some with no first aid qualification at all).

  • 2 references and photographic ID as well as proof of address.

The information and standards I require I set for myself, there are no guidelines to follow when operating a Nanny Agency. I also made the decision that I would personally meet all my Nannies and families. I know not all Nanny Agencies do this but, how can you forward Nannies if you’ve never met them? This also applies to families; how can you send Nannies to people you've never met?

For the additional safety of my Nannies/Babysitters, I insist on meeting all babysitting families too. However, there is no legal requirement on me to do so. Nanny Agencies can forward babysitters to hotel rooms without knowing who is going to open the room door!! Nanny Agencies should be regulated to safeguard Nannies as well as the children in their care.

Fourteen months in and along came GDPR so back to the drawing board ……. I did my research. I went on courses to make sure I was GDPR compliant, which I believe I am. I had taken the decision early on not to receive online registration forms to enable me to keep everyone’s personal data secure, so I was half way there. Again, if Nanny Agencies were regulated, we could be confident we are all following the same guidelines for GDPR and are equally compliant.

I set up a Nanny Agency Support Facebook page this year and I do believe that the Agencies we’ve attracted all take their roles very seriously. However, we’ve all heard the stories of Nannies who still have a CRB, never attended a first aid course, and yet they are able to register and get work through other Nanny Agencies. Quite shocking and does make you wonder what parents are told by the Agencies; what questions do parents know to ask? As a parent, I think I would assume if I went through a Nanny Agency, all the relevant checks had been made and I would assume that Agencies have to follow stringent guidelines. I wouldn’t expect to have to ask. Would you take your car to a garage and then ask the mechanic if he was qualified or would you naturally assume, he is qualified skilled and insured to do the job? Parents use a Nanny Agency to take away the worry of finding good quality childcare. Their confidence can be somewhat misplaced.

I strongly believe in supporting the Nannies and the families I work with. In addition to the support I provide, I’ve also set up Facebook groups – one for Nannies and one for families, creating an important sense of community and these are growing daily.

When Nannies register with me, they receive a ‘Welcome Pack’ containing information on Insurance, First Aid and so on, and we are slowly receiving vouchers from local companies. They then receive a ‘New Starters’ pack if they get placed through me which contains risk assessments and consent forms. I believe in protecting the Nanny by having these consent forms. I also recommend Nannies join BAPN to aid with their professional development and assist with their employment rights if required.

Babysitters also receive a pack containing consent forms and a babysitters chart where parents give them all the relevant information that maybe required.

Regulating Nanny Agencies should not be seen as simply creating a lot more paperwork, setting minimum standards and requirements for the industry to adhere to would raise standards and provide peace of mind to parents, raise the professional profile of nannies and show Nanny Agencies in a more professional light. There are some excellent Nanny Agencies out there, all working endlessly for the good of their family clients, their Nannies, and to ensure the best childcare for children. However, the inconsistencies in working practices worry me and should, I believe, worry everyone working in the Nanny Agency industry

There is nothing more frustrating than having to keep explaining to families and Nannies our policies and procedures as these should be standard across the board. Some families, sadly, want the quickest, easiest option and don’t really consider that at present anyone can set up a Nanny Agency and there is very little scrutiny or accountability.

Debbie, Founder of Savernake Nannies